Don’t GM Masturbate!

Every time you masturbate...God kills a kitten

Ever want to write a story where you have complete control? You decide the course for which the characters travel. You have the perfect way for them to solve every challenge! Oh, and let’s not forget about how you’ve perfectly timed the moments for character growth! You practically have the entire story ready to be told.

If this is the case, you should not GM.

Go and type that story out alone!

Be an author!

All the cool kids are doing it!

I’ve always held the belief that when GMs step up to the plate with a completed story already in their heads, then they are missing out on what roleplaying is really about. When you sit down to game with your friends, you can’t run your game like you are reading from a script. It’s because the goal of roleplaying is for a joint story to unfold. Their decisions, their actions, and their characters are interacting with your description, your NPCs, and your decisions.

Now, this doesn’t mean a GM shouldn’t prepare for a game. This does not mean a GM shouldn’t have a story in mind. You should have a starting incident and a few tricks up your sleeve. You can even have the ending planned to a degree. However, the journey needs to be something created with the characters. You might need to occasionally nudge the characters in the right direction but it’s important for them to feel they have control, not you.

Of course, this is all just my opinion.

Many gaming companies release scripted adventures for people. I understand that when you are picking up a game at a convention or meeting up with a new group of people, it’s probably wise to run a pre-scripted game. I see the need for them. However,  I see them as training wheels on a bike. In the beginning when everyone still needs to get used to each other, a pre-generated story can be the perfect thing! However, in order to feel the wind in your hair and the pavement flashing by you, you need to kick off those training wheels eventually and ride the bike of truth along —

Okay, I’m tired of this metaphor.

Basically, in the end, pre-generated adventures should be used to train yourself and your group to how to work cohesively together. Once you’ve learned how to do that, I think a better story is told when the group tosses away their scripts and begin writing one together.

Fandible’s Jesus is perfect at this. He usually has the ending planned or a final reveal, however he never thinks up how we come around to getting there. He trusts us that we’ll find our way and we trust him that he’ll lead us. And he also trusts us to spit on any plans he might have for the journey so he’s learned to work on those impromptu-thinking-on-your-feet skills of his.

So! Moral of the story! Don’t script you games!

Or do. And be an asshole.

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About the Author
Billy started out his roots like many roleplayers - D&D. Playing it and then Vampire all through highschool and college, Billy picked it all up again when he made the move from Michigan to New York. Now working in publishing, Billy does what he can to view roleplaying games through a narrative's lens. Does that sound classy as balls? It should.

1 comment on “Don’t GM Masturbate!

  1. Hexeter says:

    When I first began gaming back in the olden days of Red Box Basic I learned every bad habit of a first time GM that there was to learn so I know this particular subject well. Later in years my Groups would call it ‘Invisible Wall Gaming’ ala the tendency of Video Games from the 80’s-90’s to limit where you could go with sometimes horrendously placed invisible barriers. Thankfully my friends helped me to realize and overcome the annoying habit and I went on to be their Favorite GM..sorta sucked since I wanted to Play..but hey..lemonade right?

    Best way to do it I ever found was pretty much what you mentioned Jesus does, have the ending in mind and let the Players go from point A to point Z in whatever way they feel is best. Makes the whole experience a challenge for all involved. I loathed pre-defined Adventures because it felt like I was reading a story verbatim from a book. No fun there at all.

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